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IPCC climate report: humans 'dominant cause' of warming (bbc.co.uk)
31 points by sambeau on Sept 27, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

In other words, they are still guessing, however to keep themselves in business they give their dire predictions even more wildly varied results and put them far enough out that accurate incremental measurement is meaningless, 26cm over the next ninety years? So in four years or so when the next reports comes out what will the prediction be.

That is the key here, its prediction based on theory. They are constantly having to adjust this because they haven't got it figured out. They do seem adept at changing the years referenced, its likely cherry picking data is far easier when you keep moving the points.

When called to task to explain why observed data is not matching models they always fall back on the "the time frame is too short" or other such nonsense. Call me when there aren't so many people more interested in profit, political or monetary, who push this

Hey, it's complicated, ok?

New information and data improve the models and add more influences like ground-atmosphere interaction or sea-atmosphere gas exchange. It means the results at the current state will not be exact and might have variations.

That doesn't mean the basic theory is in doubt and the problem doesn't exist. (And theory does mean set of rules, proven by experiment after experiment after experiment, not some random idea someone had.)

If one of us found decisive arguments againt climate change - just imagine the money that person could make, and the good news, and the fame.. and there's too many idealistic researchers (and students) around for noone to go that way. And in the long run, it will be necessary either way to control the climate, just look at those million years temperature charts, thus funding might go down but not away.

The lack of imagination from some HN readers is always disappointing when climate change is discussed.

Imagine for a moment that climate change is a scam, and isn't happening, and that we're all wrong about it.

Why are increasing efficiency, reducing waste, investigating new energy generation methods, etc, bad things?

Bob has a car that can do 25 MPG. Does he want more cup holders, or does he want better fuel efficiency? (actually, he probably wanted more cupholders, which is one of the reasons the US car industry is so broken now. I know you need comfy cars when you drive so far, but I don't understand why you don't need better fuel efficiency even if fuel is cheap.)

PS: Googlers: It'd be interesting to see how popular a (https://www.google.com/lowercarbon) site would be. That site would use Google's best tech to aggressively reduce the CO2 cost of searching.


> In a recent New Yorker article on sport-utility vehicles and safety, Malcolm Gladwell quotes the French cultural anthropologist G. Clotaire Rapaille expressing amazement that the first thing educated car-buyers look at in a car is how many cup holders it has. My experience is that people shopping for a new car or truck are more discriminating. It is not so much the number of cup holders as their design that can tip the balance between choosing one vehicle over another. (I have repeatedly heard articulate people say that their family's latest automobile purchase hinged on which cup holders worked best for them.)

> Why are increasing efficiency, reducing waste, investigating new energy generation methods, etc, bad things?

These are not bad things. They are clearly good things. The "bad thing" is when someone proposes to use government force and threats to push these things to market. Obviously, force and threats are bad.

If these things are good enough, then smart people engaged in peaceful, free exchange will introduce them to market. No force or threats necessary.

>obviously, force and threats are bad

Dunno about that. Some people don't mind the existence of government to patch some things up.

Force and threats are pretty useful when trying to fix market failures or tragedy of the commons-type situations. Lack of regulations wouldn't suddenly create free markets because consumers aren't always smart , information isn't perfect, sometimes there are only two producers (so there's pricing influence), etc.

There's no free lunch. Mandating more gas efficiency means you necessarily get less of other important things people like and want, such as safety and cost savings.

One way to make cars a lot more fuel efficient would be to get rid of the weight of the roll cage...but then more people would die in auto accidents. Another would be to replace much of the metal with stronger, lighter, higher-tech alloys...but then the car would cost twice as much. That's the sort of tradeoff that makes a difference. If we could somehow get rid of all the mandates - not just the environmental ones - we'd tend to see better overall cars and a wider range of cars available with some that specialize in super-low emissions while others specialize in better safety or higher performance or whatever. But just piling on new requirements atop all the previous ones isn't going to get you major improvement - there's diminishing return on that.

> Mandating more gas efficiency means you necessarily get less of other important things people like and want, such as safety and cost savings.

...or cup holders. See parent post.

"In other words, they are still guessing"

That's called science. Only it isn't guessing.

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog has a good piece on Climate Change Denial too:

"And I’ll remind you that while denialists are distracting everyone about the “pause”, about climate sensitivity, and all that, the Arctic sea ice is melting. Antarctic land ice is melting. We just experienced the hottest decade on record. And it’s difficult to stress this enough: The trend over time is higher temperatures."


Elon Musk first drew my attention to this article. His Twitter feed is full of useful/insightful climate change information.

It's actually kind of a terrible piece. The heart of the problem is that he regards skepticalscience as a valid source of science information. But just looking at the part you quoted: if the warming trend ever stopped, that would look exactly like what we've actually seen.

Mathematically speaking, whenever a warming trend stops, the decade after which that happens will be one in which you can correctly say "We just experienced the hottest decade on record.". So in that paragraph he is not actually disagreeing that there has been a pause. Nor is he providing any evidence at all against it. The fact that he apparently thinks he's making an argument against the skeptical position really just says that he doesn't know any skeptics.

I'm not a climate scientist, but something bothers me about this debate. Why is it that skeptics are dismissed at best as ignorant or stupid, as paid shills for big oil, or even terrorists. I'm skeptical of at least some climate change claims, but I don't feel like I'm stupid or ignorant or a terrorist. Instead, I constantly hear confused or misleading statements about the environment, often stated with a religious fervor that characterizes those who doubt as sinners.

While at happy-hour, a friend's boyfriend started complaining about how much waste there was in some pizza box. So far, I'm at least partially on-board with what he's saying, but then it goes off into alarmist claims about landfills. Now, I'm starting to realize that he hasn't really read anything about the subject (I read a lot). So I say, "Well, it's probably not the world's biggest problem, there's not a shortage of holes in the ground." He end's up getting mad and casting aspersions. (The best being that he accuses me of being a "Capitalist").

At a party I'm talking to a self-identified "geologist". He's talking about global warming and loss of glaciers, etc. I say, "Isn't it weird that that's going on while central Antarctica is actually cooling?". His response was "Oh, well of course, warming can cause that too." He was a nice enough guy, but I notice that it didn't matter what direction the temperature of Antarctica was heading, to him, it confirmed his belief.

I really like Phil Plat's Bad Astronomy, but even his recent post makes me wonder: he notes that temperatures haven't headed up as the models predict, but oh this isn't really a problem the heat has decided to go into the oceans. He says "it's observed" and not at all a new idea "we've known" this. Well I follow the link [1] and the way I read the web page is that top 700 meters of the ocean haven't warmed (hmm..), oh but the next 800 meters have and below that, well, we don't know or we don't understand or it doesn't seem to matter. This is so weak and unconvincing that I turn to another link in Phil's blog post, the "it's observed" link [2]. I don't get very far with this one either because this page says:

    If the oceans are warming up, this implies that the Earth must absorb more solar energy 
    than it emits long-wave radiation into space. This is the only possible heat source. 
    That’s simply the first law of thermodynamics, conservation of energy. This conservation 
    law is why physicists are so interested in looking at the energy balance of anything. 
    Because we understand the energy balance of our Earth, we also know that global warming 
    is caused by greenhouse gases – which have caused the largest imbalance in the radiative 
    energy budget over the last century. 
This is just such horse-poop. The author is trying to impress us with (the scary word) "thermodynamics" and (wow) what "physicists" are interested in while telling us that this "is this only possible heat source". What happened to the heat generated by radioactive decay of the earths isotopes or primordial heat from the earth's core, these certainly affect the earth's heat balance. See what physicsworld.com has to say about this [3]. That web page sites a study claiming that about 50% of the heat given off by the earth is from radioactive decay. The page's author might be right about the oceans absorbing heat, but this doesn't sound like a real scientist speaking.

This is how it goes. I see journalists, newscasters, everyday friends and associates making uneducated and unscientific statements, while accusing skeptics of being flat-earthers. Every storm, every tornado, every hot summer afternoon (or cold winter morning) further justifies their belief in dangerous climate change. Even though they know nothing of the science behind climate and the real challenges of moving our planet to a more sustainable future.

[1] http://www.skepticalscience.com/Ocean-Heat-Content-And-The-I... [2] http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/what-o... [3] http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2011/jul/19/radioac...

It isn't just climate theory. I have the distinct impression that the whole world has been getting every more "certain" and intolerant about the local viewpoints, and it has become ever less acceptable to diverge from the norm. Alternative viewpoints used to be more than acceptable, and attacking people over alternative viewpoints was what was bad.

Today there's a million thing you can't disagree with in polite company. Climate theory (even the lunatic claims, like that temperature will keep rising until the seas boil or other such drivel), and the associated evil of humans, and the goodness of nature (pointing out exactly what natural selection means is liable to make you persona non grata). Species that can't quickly adapt don't deserve to live. That's what evolution says. But guess what, that's not what anybody means when they say nature. That seems to come from Disney films.

You aren't allowed to deny that alternative "natural" things are good for you, when in fact that's usually flat out wrong. Natural bread is not, in fact, better for you. And yes, fibre is good for you, but fibre in scientific papers is something entirely different from what makes bread brown. Telling someone who believes in homoeopathy that they're, well, morons, is no longer acceptable. In climate "intolerance", at least the scientific side can be said to have the upper hand, but ...

The same goes for cultures. Anyone with a basic knowledge of different cultures knows that every culture has extremely offensive and immoral components. Equality of cultures ... great soundbite ! Except ... we do put our own culture first, and in practice all religions and ideologies except western Christianity promote completely unacceptable. Equality, between men and women, and legal equality between people in society is something uniquely western. Tolerate muslims ... sounds good, until you actually read how the culture works. Look up dhimma, look up devshirme, look up zakat, look up the racist conditions of halal meat, those things are morally reprehensible. Likewise, the structure of Hindu society is morally abhorrent in it's inequality. God forbid anyone mentions that. And God forbid anyone asks a muslim whether they think the prophet is a moral abomination, no matter how obviously true it is. Facts no longer matter.

Another problem is that I've visited Egypt a few years back. Complete intolerance for any differences in opinion is also happening there, and it's doing the exact same thing. Believe it or not, the divergence of society around religion (you can't put it like this in Egypt or you'll get shot, but it's essentially true : ex-muslims versus extremists) is nothing new. It existed 50 years back just the same as today. What IS new, however, is that it's perfectly normal for both sides to violently suppress any sign of the other side where they see it. It's not just muslim extremists being intolerant, the regular kind is just as bad these days, and so are the "non-religous", it's just as much the ex-muslim side. Asking a woman to cover up for a special event, no matter how atheist she felt, was perfectly acceptable. Now it's likely to get you shot. The same happens on the other side. 30 years ago, girls from religious families dated (that they still -sort of- do, in fact they're much more easy to get in bed, both the religious and the non-religious), and they dressed according to the occasion, what they expected their date to prefer. For going dancing religious girls certainly didn't don "traditional" clothing. Today, asking a woman on a date to take off her veil will immediately provoke violence from bystanders, even if the girl herself wants to do it (probably even if she were to take the initiative). This was an extremely normal thing to do 15 years ago. What the fuck. But I'm seeing signs of the same thing happening right here in America.

And yes, the ex-muslims seem to be losing the fight, in Egypt, but it's not over. The extremists have no good alternative, so they're fighting for nothing. Which means either side can't win. Both sides have more than proven they can do a lot of damage before they lose. But why is there a fight at all ? Clearly it is possible to live together, they've fucking done it for 50 years.

We seem to generally feel that anyone is entitled to their own belief, and is allowed to act like a total moron on the matter. And yes, I will call climate "advocacy" just a belief, because the vast majority of people pushing it wouldn't know how to average a temperature series. And you can call in "facts", sure. But the only kind of valid facts are facts that are properly sourced. If you don't know why you believe something and can point to serious publications defending that, it's not a fucking fact.

Where a belief has the majority of the population on it's side, whether it's islam, climate adherents or denialists, socialists, bible-thumpers, communists, ... that majority finds now finds it perfectly acceptable to use psychological and real violence against the other side. Maybe I didn't look around enough when I was younger, but I certainly get the impression things have gotten worse. A lot worse. Because the majority of people are morons, no matter the specific belief they're pushing, you find basic logic errors and inconsistencies a 4 year old could find in pretty much every popular text on any subject, as you illustrate with climate science. WTF. Also, that majority is allowed to invent or deny facts to support their view, and obvious logical errors go unchallenged.

Of course we've also managed to adopt contradictory views in the meantime, and over "large" distances, the adopted ideologies differ quite a bit. And everybody is digging in.

This will not end well.

Well done for turning an article about climate change into an opportunity to vent your hatred of Islam. That really is quite impressive, in an unhinged, wouldn't want to get sit next to you on a plane, kind of way.

I didn't sense any "hatred" of Islam from that author. Can you explain how you perceive this to be so?

I remember in the 70s and 80s, the climatees were barking about a news ice age. I wonder whatever happened to that argument. Must've not gotten as much benefits as 'global warming' I guess.

> I remember in the 70s and 80s, the climatees were barking about a news ice age.

A lot of people seem to be "remembering" that lately. Indeed, there were some concerns of an ice age somewhere in the next few millennia, but global warming was already on the table, and becoming the mainstream (scientific) view by the 80s. The term didn't really hit mainstream public use until the late 80s.

There was a separate scare about imminent global cooling in the early 70s, but it was largely media-driven, had little support in the scientific community, and never became terribly mainstream.

My local museum had dioramas about the coming ice age. It was science of its time - we've spent a lot more time and money on climate science since then. We have much more powerful computers (What's a modern smartphone like compared to the total world computing power in 1975?).

It is unfortunate that denialists use it to argue against ACC but don't make the mistake of saying that "the ice age was never serious" - it was.

Wikipedia, first hit on Google:

"Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth's surface and atmosphere culminating in a period of extensive glaciation. This hypothesis had little support in the scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s and press reports that did not accurately reflect the full scope of the scientific climate literature, i.e., a larger and faster-growing body of literature projecting future warming due to greenhouse gas emissions."

But this is so easy to find that I suspect the details don't really matter to you. Perhaps another wikipedia article might help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning

Revisionist history much?

Both right. We were heading for an ice age. Not any more.

So we fixed it?

In the sense that setting you on fire is a fix for hypothermia.

Can someone draw up a list of things science is less certain about than climate change? Not that I think there's much hope for the people who still think 95% means "guessing," but still.

The error bars are from 95-100% certain. In science and statistics, this is pretty compelling. It's not guessing. There is a chance that the prevailing climate science is wrong. It's not a very big chance. But it does exist.

Which error bars do you mean? The recent warming "pause" currently puts us outside the 95% error bars for nearly all of the individual climate models, demonstrating that either climate sensitivity is being drastically overestimated or natural variability is being drastically underestimated.

(see the latest ClimateAudit post for pretty box charts and some analysis: http://climateaudit.org/2013/09/24/two-minutes-to-midnight/ )

That's not very informative. Science isn't certain about how bicycles work, but knows how microscopic particles interact. Or why we sneeze/sleep.

What do you mean "95% certain that humans are the dominant cause of global warming"? I was told several times it is proven beyond any doubts, we are one and only cause of global warming.

From the IPCC press release: "In this IPCC assessment report, specific terms are used to indicate the assessed likelihood of an outcome or a result. For those terms used above: virtually certain means 99–100% probability, extremely likely: 95–100%, very likely: 90–100%, likely: 66–100%." They have moved their assessment from "very likely" to "extremely likely". Note that the range still includes values up to 100%.

Scientists try to be very precise with their language. As a result of this precision, people that disbelieve in anthropogenic climate change can pick selective phrases, or statistics, that appear to support their own opinion, but in reality do not support their own opinion.

I expect the same amount of corrective action and measures from our "leaders" and "representatives" to this global threat as we've gotten after the reality check offered by Snowden.

The reason behind it: Our fundamental system(s) being rotten and having become unable to correct themselves.

Conclusion: Change is only coming when rich people are directly and negatively affected by the issues. As long as they can insulate themselves from the problems, change will not happen.

What kind of change though? http://topher.com.au/50-to-1-video-project/ gives pause for thought. The 5th IPCC report suggests that Topher was too generous in his assessment.

a projected increase in average global temperature does not necessarily imply any particular response. you need to benefits at the costs and benefits of global warming as well as the costs and potential effectiveness of 'corrective action'...

After reading the quotes of 'scientists' like those mentioned in this article I AM 100% SOLD! Man is bad! They sound so positive (and smart) so there's no need to even study the issue any more. IT'S DONE.


There actually is a large counter argument (not profiting like the pro argument which includes everyone from Al Gore to the energy companies). To me it’s suspicious that the pro side keeps getting caught lying and colluding and has been forced to backtrack on their fear mongering claims and arguments. If it is found that this is a for profit fraud which is raising energy prices, food prices, etc. then those profiting from the possible deaths and starvation of others should be held responsible.

And the 95% agree reported in this article or 97% agree 'fact' tweeted by the president seems to actually be the complete opposite upon peer review. 0.3% instead of 97%.

See http://floppingaces.net/most_wanted/0-3-consensus-not-97-1-q...

(10 pages of references for this article here: http://floppingaces.net/cook-97-consensus-2013.pdf)

From the source you linked to:

"Cook et al. (2013) stated that abstracts of nearly all papers expressing an opinion on climate change endorsed consensus,which, however, traditionally has no scientific role; used three imprecise definitions of consensus interchangeably; analyzed abstracts only;excluded 67% expressing no opinion; omitted some key results; misstated others; and thus concluded that 97.1% endorsed the hypothesis as defined in their introduction,namely that the “scientific consensus that human activity is very likely causing most of the current GW (anthropogenic global warming, or AGW)”. The authors’ own data file categorized 64 abstracts, or only 0.5% of the sample, as endorsing the consensus hypothesis as thus defined. Inspection shows only 41 of the 64, or 0.3% of the entire sample, actually endorsed their hypothesis. Criteria for peer review of papers quantifying scientific consensus are discussed."

They sampled the data. Just because they didn't review every paper doesn't mean that the papers they didn't review disagree with their assessment. Furthermore, the fact that 67% didn't express an opinion simply shows that they were scientists. One goal of scientific publications is to not editorialize, to not express opinions. However, the results of their research still point to anthropogenic climate change.

It was "unequivocal" in the previous IPCC report too. The interesting part is that the likelihood of humans being the dominant influence causing the observed warming has increased since the previous report. Previously it was considered "very likely" and now it is considered "extremely likely." The report defines "very likely" as 90-100% and "extremely likely" as 95-100%.

Both the headline here and the BCC article seem a little sensational to me. I recommend reading the reports yourself. They're not very long nor are they difficult to read.

That small margin of uncertainty will keep the global warming denialists alive. In the coming days we will hear several myths from them about global warming. See also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6456476

"Denialists"? You couldn't have found a more polarizing term for people with differing opinions? I mean we have to get the hate mongering up to a higher level, "denialists" just seem way to soft for these sub-people.

Over the past several years, I've had discussions with a number of people about anthropogenic climate change and global warming. A number of people that disagreed with anthropogenic climate change were adamant that a number of scientists had decreed that the world was, in fact, getting cooler. I asked them for sources, and several sources were put forth. In every instance, the sources they provided were in agreement that the world was, in fact, getting warmer (I'm not sure of any scientist that would say otherwise when looking at the past 150 years). The sources they provided were arguing against the anthropogenic causes, not that the world wasn't getting warmer. This is what I would call "denial"--when the facts coming from their own sources are in direct contrast to their own beliefs.

Furthermore, when confronted with compelling evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the result of the burning of fossil fuels, not natural emissions of carbon dioxide (such as algae blooms, volcanic activity, or the thawing of carbon trapped in ice), they continue to argue that the CO2 levels are not due to human activity. The compelling evidence comes from carbon isotope analysis--C14 levels are consistent with atmospheric conditions from some 60 million years ago, ruling out recent biological releases and releases from trapped ice, while C13 levels rule out sources from volcanic activity. Both are consistent with output resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. This, to me, is a case of cognitive dissonance--when facts are in direct conflict with strongly held beliefs, cognitive dissonance can lead to a denial of said facts. This is another case of "denial".

Here's another fine example: http://www.noconsensus.org/ipcc-audit/findings-detailed.php

This obviously biased site conducted a survey of how well the peer-review in the previous IPCC report was. They claim it got an F, but when you look closely, all the chapters on the science of global warming got all A's and B's. It's the "what are we going to do about it" that gets the failing grades.

But by presenting their results backwards, your first impression is going to be that the report is really bad.

>A number of people that disagreed with anthropogenic climate change were adamant that a number of scientists had decreed that the world was, in fact, getting cooler. I asked them for sources, and several sources were put forth. In every instance, the sources they provided were in agreement that the world was, in fact, getting warmer (I'm not sure of any scientist that would say otherwise when looking at the past 150 years).

Wait, what? Whether the world is "getting cooler" or "getting warmer" depends entirely on the timescale you choose to look at. On a million-year scale it's "getting cooler" - it was warmer 5 million years ago than it is today. It is also "getting cooler" if you look at a much shorter scale, say, over the last decade. Are you sure they weren't talking about one of those?

Here's the (cooling) trend for the last decade:


(the woodfortrees index combines several standard data sources into a single static metric; it is calculated as: mean(GISTEMP-0.35, HADCRUT3VGL-0.26, RSS-0.10, UAH).)

I think the problem is with your terminology. To say we've gotten warmer implies it happened over some specific (albeit unspecified) measured timeframe. But to say we're getting warmer implies it's happening right now. In theory we could switch from getting warmer to getting cooler in a single year. There is no objectively preferable time window to judge it. You're free to prefer 30 years or 150 years, but that's an arbitrary choice - the fact that you can find some windows over which warming has happened doesn't mean warming is happening now.

There's no inconsistency between believing "it has gotten warmer" and "it's not currently getting warmer". If they claimed the latter and you looked for evidence of the former, you haven't even shown a contradiction, much less "denial".

Saying "I'm just going to ignore scientific consensus because it suits me to do so" isn't an opinion.

Now we're getting somewhere! If an opinion is not equal to scientific consensus, then it's simply not an opinion. Great stuff. We still need a better expression to derogatorily generalize these people though. "Climate-kook" maybe? That's catchy and dismissive, still not entirely sure it's hateful enough though.

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